Honey Jam Phoenix, Toronto ON - August 15, 2004

Last year, Honey Jam fell on the evening of the blackout, a fact that had the PhemPhat squad that puts on this annual all-female showcase determined to pack the venue this year. While familiar names such as hostess Michee Mee, featured performer Jully Black, dancers by Blaze entertainment and DJs Gunz'n'Roses and Mel Boogie upped the ante, the unknowns were, and are always, the show's real draw. Throughout the night, interest was kept high by a handful of vocalists of both R&B and rock flavours. In terms of MCs, Masia One, with her band, had all the right ingredients but was unable to incite the crowd into anything more than a focused head-nod. Toya Alexus commanded the microphone with a flood of personality and talent. On top of her strong showing was a creative hunger to be seen, heard, and requested on Toronto urban radio station Flow (she actually did an interlude with the station's phone number). The voices and performance skills of Andrina Mills, Laura Blaze and Kellylee Evans certainly made the night interesting, with their talent varying in degrees of rawness. While the showcase nurtures a non-competitive atmosphere, steel pianist Joy Lapps — known as the Princess of the Pan — was the only Honey Jammer of the night to light up the entire crowd. Being primarily a gospel artist, Joy started with "Amazing Grace" and moved into a versatile set that included Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson's "Bad" (she was even rocking white socks, black pants and a wife-beater) and Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks," which she played while doing the robot. Of the night, there was one sour note, which has nothing to do with the Honey Jam organisers — nine years running and there has been only one Cinderella story: Nelly Furtado. All of the other alumni discovered and exposed through this essential event are still struggling to be heard in our underdeveloped, yet progressing, Canadian industry.